Drug War 40

The global war as seen from the center of North America

Declaration in support of Ciudad Juárez

The following declaration will be published in a newspaper ad in the
El Paso Times on Monday, May 17. If you are a citizen of the United
States and a resident of Las Cruces or El Paso and would like to add
your name to the declaration to appear in the published ad, please
contact Dr. Oscar Martinez BY NOON WEDNESDAY (tomorrow). He can be
reached by email:

Any names that come in after noon on Wednesday will be added to the
list of endorsers for future dissemination of the Declaration.

Oscar J. Martinez
Regents’ Professor
History Department
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721

Pre-publication draft #2, May 10, 2010


We, the undersigned, U.S. citizens and residents of El Paso, Texas and
Las Cruces, New Mexico express our profound concern and dismay
regarding the absence of public safety, the near-complete breakdown of
the rule of law, and the humanitarian catastrophe in our neighboring
city of Ciudad Juárez. The terror that now confronts the residents of
Juárez, most of it a consequence of the climate of lawlessness created
by drug trafficking, is endangering the future peace and prosperity of
our binational region.

The Tragic Facts

Since 2006 the level of violence has been unprecedented, and Juárez
has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Over 1,600
people were killed in Juárez in 2008, nearly 2,700 in 2009, and 2010
is on track to equal or exceed previous records. Since 2008 over 150
children under the age of 18 have been slain, including toddlers
caught in the crossfire. Criminals acting with impunity have savagely
raped, tortured, and executed hundreds of young women, disposing of
their mutilated bodies in the desert surrounding Juárez. In 2009
there were 16,000 car thefts, of which 1,900 were classified as
carjackings. In addition, disappearances, kidnappings, extortions,
arsons, and assaults have become a daily occurrence.1

The uncontrolled violence has devastated the economy of Juárez and
seriously disrupted daily life. The dangerous climate has contributed
in a significant way to a steep drop in new investment of capital, to
diminishing productivity, to the closure of over 11,000 businesses,
and to massive unemployment. Between 100,000 to 200,000 people have
abandoned the city, with over 116,000 homes left vacant and many of
them vandalized. At least 30,000 of the refugees have moved to El

Why Residents of El Paso and Las Cruces Should Care

It is in the interest of El Paso and Las Cruces to assist in all ways
possible to quell the violence in Juárez. The three cities constitute
one community and are deeply dependent on each other. Many people
from El Paso and Las Cruces commute regularly to work in Juárez, to
visit relatives, to shop, and to get medical and dental care. Many
tuition-paying students from Juárez cross the border daily to attend
elementary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher
learning, on U.S. soil. The intense interaction between our three
cities means an overall annual economic impact of billions of dollars
in El Paso and Las Cruces. Juarenses annually spend over $1.2 billion
in El Paso, and over 60,000 jobs El Paso rely upon the Juárez
maquiladoras and other economic activity.

The Underlying Cause of the Violence

It is well documented that much of the Juárez violence is fueled by
the various drug wars – those between cartels, those within cartels,
and those between cartels and the governments of the U.S. and Mexico –
wars that take the lives of members of drug trafficking organizations
and those innocent of any involvement. Residents of El Paso and Las
Cruces need to participate with our own government as well as with our
Mexican neighbors toward finding a pragmatic and workable solution
that ends the violence and restores order, law, and justice.

We can no longer afford to deny the overwhelming role that U.S.
consumption of drugs plays in fueling the violence in Juárez and
elsewhere in Mexico, or ignore that illicit cash and arms flows from
the United States into Mexico play a direct and powerful role in
sustaining the cartels and in fomenting the massive killing of people
in our neighboring Mexican city.

Call to Action

It is time to recognize that the U.S. 40-year War on Drugs has been a
dismal social, economic and policy failure. It has not achieved any of
its goals. Narco-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is
raging at unprecedented levels with no end in sight. We join many
prominent Americans, including ex-U.S. secretaries of state George
Schultz and James Baker, U.S. Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton
Friedman, ex-presidents of Mexico Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, ex-
president of Colombia César Gaviria, and ex-president of Brazil
Fernando Enrique Cardoso in calling for a comprehensive revamping of
the failed War on Drugs waged by the United States and other

* We support a well-funded and aggressive U.S. national
educational campaign to encourage people to refrain from the use of
illegal drugs by connecting their use to cartel-related terror.
* We support increased emphasis on treating substance abuse,
including the building of more substance abuse facilities
* We support U.S. drug policy initiatives that do not result in
wasting government funds and empowering criminal gangs and trafficking
* We advocate, as an important first step in drug reform, the
repeal of the ineffective U.S. marijuana drug laws in favor of
regulating, controlling and taxing the production, distribution, sale
and consumption of marijuana by adults. The sale of marijuana in the
U.S. black market contributes 50 to 70 percent of Mexico’s cartel
* We oppose unsuccessful militaristic approaches and demand that
any future U.S. aid involve a rigorous accounting of allegations of
human rights abuses and have strict performance metrics.
* We support U.S. aid that is tied to social, educational and
economic development in Mexico and support that country’s fight to
establish effective and just rule of law.
* We call on the U.S. government to properly and without bias make
decisions on applications from Mexicans seeking asylum from the
violence in Mexico, as well as make use of other existing avenues
available under U.S. law to ensure that all asylum seekers whose lives
are in danger are not unjustly rejected.


Between 18,000 and 23,000 Mexicans have been killed since 2006, when
Mexico’s calamitous War on Drugs began.

Over 1,600 people were killed in Juárez in 2008, nearly 2,700 in 2009,
and 2010 is on track to equal or exceed previous records. Since 2008
over 150 children under the age of 18 have been slain, including
toddlers caught in the crossfire.

In 2009, more El Pasoans were killed in Juárez than in El Paso.

Massacres of large groups and discoveries of mass graves of murdered
victims have become frequent occurrences in Juárez since the late

CIUDAD JUÁREZ SUPPORT NETWORK https://drugwar40.wordpress.com

Norma Alarcon

Dr. Charles Ambler

Gloria Ambler

Moses Ayoub

Rabbi Larry Bach

Bobby Byrd

Lee Byrd

Rep. Susie Byrd

Dr. Howard Campbell

Veronica Carbajal

Tom Casey

Luis Enrique Chew

Mari Cotera

Dr. Sandra Deutsch

Claudia Ferman

Fernando García

Ruben García

Dr. Amit Ghosh

Pat Graham-Casey

Dr. Josiah M. Heyman

Rafael Jesús González

Vanessa Johnson

Debra Kelly

Dr. Yolanda Leyva

Dr. Alejandro Lugo

Patricia Luna

Dr. Victor M. Macías-González

Dr. Oscar J. Martínez

Dr. Zulma Y. Méndez

Molly Molloy

Antonio Moreno

Andrés Muro

Richard Newton

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Rep. Steve Ortega

Juan Ramírez

Carmen Rodríguez

José Rodríguez

Dr. César Rossatto

Benjamin Saenz

Stella Salazar

Michael Scanlon

Carlos Spector

Sandra Spector

Dr. Kathy Staudt

Paul Strelzin

Dr. Socorro Coquis Tabuenca

Rosamaría Tabuenca-Moyer

Katie Updike

Carmen Urrutia

Dr. Melissa Wright

Steve Yellen

Tracy Yellen


Filed under: Analysis, Government and NGO Resources, News

Castañeda: “Going nowhere”

An important piece of the argument of former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda here, somewhat lost in the bigger picture, is questioning the assertion that Mexico’s domestic drug consumption is going up. Castañeda also argues for an “understanding,” the former state of affairs, with the cartels. (Although many argue that an “understanding” is a current state of affairs, at least with one of the cartels.)

What is going on with Mexico’s drug war? Why are we in our current mess, and what are the possibilities of getting out of it in any reasonable time frame?

We are in this mess today, as opposed to over the last 40 or 50 years, because when the current president, Felipe Calderón, took office over three years ago, he felt that he had no choice but to declare a full-fledged, no-holds-barred war on drugs. He declared this war after a three-month transition period, which was very rocky because of the controversy surrounding the elections. And he declared this war because he had the impression that it was as if a patient had come to him and said, “I have a stomachache.” Thinking it was a problem of appendicitis, he opened the patient up and found that the entire abdominal cavity was invaded by cancer. He had no option other than to go in with everything he had to fix it. This was the country Calderón said he found. He had to declare a war on drugs because the drug cartels had reached a level of power, wealth, violence, and penetration of the state that made the situation untenable.

Why the War on Drugs?
Why did president Calderón declare the war on drugs? The first reason was violence. In the last year of President Vicente Fox’s administration there had probably been more incidents of violence related to drugs in some states of Mexico than in previous years. This is a hard judgment to make because only in the last 15 years has Mexico been a country where there is a real congress, where there is a free press, and where there is some sort of accountability and transparency.

We don’t really know how many people were killed in drug wars in the 1970s and the 1980s because there was nobody to count them. We know how many were killed in 2003, 2004, 2007, or 2008, because we now have a free press, we have an opposition in congress, we have international monitors, we have Human Rights Watch, we have the Drug Enforcement Administration, and we have all sorts of people doing those jobs. Since we didn’t have that in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, we really don’t know if there is that much more violence now than there was then. However, President Calderón had the impression that there was more violence when he assumed office and so he had to take on the drug cartels for that reason.

The second reason is that Calderón also thought there was more corruption now — or three years ago — than before. However, the notion that drug-related corruption is worse today than 30 or 40 years ago is not really that clear since, again, we do not know how much corruption there was before. Still, it’s probably true that there is less corruption stemming from drugs today because there is less corruption, in general, in Mexico today for many reasons, including politics, globalization, and NAFTA. Therefore, that reason was a difficult one to accept at face value.

A third explanation given by the president was that the drug cartels had penetrated the political arena at the local, state, and federal levels to such an extent that Mexico was losing control of parts of its territory. Again, this is a tough call to make in a country where we have had that type of penetration for many years.

Finally, President Calderón has argued that Mexico has ceased being simply a transit country and has become a country of drug consumption. That notion struck a chord in Mexican public opinion: “We are not doing this for the Americans anymore; we are doing it for ourselves because drugs are reaching our children.”

The problem with this argument is that the government has not been able to come up with any statistics over the last three years to substantiate the claim. In fact, most of the figures the government does provide, like the number of users, occasional users, addicts, and so on, show that, at best, there has been a very small increase in the number of users, whether they are occasional users or addicts. One shortcoming of the numbers that the government generally uses is that they only quantify “users,” without breaking down the data between occasional, recreational, or addicted users. “Users” of drugs have gone up from 307,000 to 465,000 over the last seven years (2002—2008), which in a country of 110 million people, is not a huge drug problem. Mexico is, by and large, today a middle-class country, with approximately 60 percent of the country ranked as such. In a typical middle-class country you have much more than 0.4 percent of the population that has used drugs.

Fighting the War
Who is waging this war? This is a complicated question. We have an army in Mexico, the purpose of which is not to be a fighting army, but to participate in rescue efforts when some natural disaster strikes the country. Mexico’s political system has, since the 1920s, deliberately ensured that the army is useless. There is a tremendous consensus in the country on this matter. We want an army that is corrupt, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and totally useless. Why? Because those armies don’t overthrow their governments. We have not even had an attempted military coup in Mexico since 1938.

An old, distinguished Mexican politician, Jesús Reyes Heroles, who in the 1960s was head of Pemex, the stateowned oil company, once told me that one day there was a riot somewhere in the country, and the minister of defense came to him and said, “I need more gas for my trucks.” Mr. Reyes Heroles refused, so the minister of defense went to complain to the president about why he couldn’t have any more gas for his trucks. The president then called the head of Pemex and asked him about the situation. Mr. Reyes Heroles said, “Look, Mr. President, I’ll do whatever you want, but standing orders here in Pemex are never to give the army more than two days’ of gasoline. If you want me to give them more, I’ll do it. But this is the way things operate.”

It’s not as stupid as it sounds; it was actually very wise. The caveat is that you can’t ask such an army to go to war because that’s not its business. Therefore, you have an army that is totally unprepared to fight a war against drug cartels. The second question is who else could be fighting this war if we don’t have an effective army? What about the police? The problem is that Mexico doesn’t have a national police force like Chile or Colombia. We have county and state police. Each of the 2,500 counties and 32 states in Mexico has its own police force, and they are the ones fighting the war on drugs. The problem is that local policemen go through an identity crisis every day regarding who they work for. Do they work for the drug cartels or the citizens of the country? They work for the drug cartels — and everybody in Mexico knows that. Clearly, you can’t ask them to fight the drug cartels because they are part of the drug cartels.

Therefore, Mexico has an army which is not ready to fight a war on drugs, and a police force that is not willing to do so. The remaining alternative is the United States, but that option is quite complicated. Historically, Mexico has always wanted U.S. support for law-enforcement efforts, and the United States has been willing to give us such support, but we want it on our terms, not on U.S. terms. And, since approximately the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has placed a series of restrictions on military aid that involve human rights provisions, military supervision, and instruction, among others. That means that we can’t get American aid on our terms, and thus it has been very limited. Who then is fighting the war on drugs? We don’t really know.

Another problem the president and the government faced has to do with the Powell Doctrine. During the Gulf War, General Colin Powell, then head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined what came to be known as the Powell Doctrine for U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad, and it establishes several conditions: you need to have a definition of victory, you need to have overwhelming force, you need to have an exit strategy, and you need to have the support and understanding of the people.

If you apply the Powell doctrine to Mexico’s war on drugs, you will quickly notice that first, there is no overwhelming force — as a matter of fact, there is no force. Second, there is no exit strategy, because there is no way to know whether you have won the war on drugs or not. Third, there is no foreseeable way out of this war. And fourth, you have public support for this endeavor only as long as you are not affecting the daily lives of the people, and even though the war on drugs continues to have the support of most Mexicans, that support is quickly fading locally. If you ask someone what he or she thinks about the army taking over Ciudad Juárez or Cancún, that person would probably say that it is a good idea. But if you ask the people of Ciudad Juárez or Cancún whether they liked the massacre last week in the penitentiary or whether they liked seeing the severed head of the newly appointed chief of security displayed by the side of the road three weeks ago, they will say they are not so happy about it.

Unrealistic Expectations of U.S. Change
Everyone in Mexico knows that we can’t win this war. The government, acknowledging this, has begun to say that drug trafficking and violence can’t be solved until the United States does two things, knowing full well that those are impossible. One is reducing the demand for drugs. It is well known that U.S. demand for drugs over the past 40 years has remained pretty much stable, although the types of drugs consumed have changed: marijuana was the drug of the 1960s and 1970s, cocaine and crack were the drugs of the 1990s, and methamphetamine is the drug of the first decade of the 21st century. However, the overall number of users has remained pretty much the same. If the United States hasn’t been able to reduce drug consumption in 40 years, it’s very unlikely that it will be able to do it now.

The first Mexican president to realize this was Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, in 1969, when Richard Nixon told him “Yes, you’re right, absolutely, we have to do something on the demand side.” Since then, every American president has recognized the need to do something about drug demand, but nothing has happened because it’s not feasible.

The second request to the U.S. government is to stop the traffic of weapons from the United States to Mexico because — the Mexican authorities claim — all of the violence and all of the killing is done with American guns. In fact, we only know with certainty that about 18 percent of guns come from the United States, according to Mexican and U.S. sources.1 The rest is surely coming from Central America, countries of the former Soviet Union, and beyond. And as countries as diverse as Brazil, Paraguay, Somalia, and Sudan attest — all countries with a higher arms per capita than Mexico — you don’t need a border with the United States to gain easy access to guns. Nevertheless, the possibilities of really limiting the sales of weapons in the United States is not imminent, to put it mildly. Moreover, asking the United States to stop arms trafficking from north to south is like asking Mexico to control its border from south to north, whether it is for drugs, people, or anything else. It’s not going to happen.

What Can Mexico Do?
President Calderón, in response to a recent report by former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, and César Gaviria of Colombia calling for the decriminalization of marijuana, said that such a move would condemn entire generations of Mexicans to destitution and despair.2 It seems that he didn’t understand that what these former presidents were calling for was decriminalization of drugs everywhere, not just in their own countries, but in particular, in large drug-consuming nations such as the United States.

There is no possible way that Mexico could get away with unilaterally decriminalizing possession, commerce, and consumption of drugs in Mexico if the United States didn’t do the same thing, and in that sense, president Calderón is right. Not only would Mexico become a meeting point for junkies from all over the world — and particularly from the United States — but the real issue would be the pressure from the U.S. government not to do that, which would be unbearable for Mexico.

Does that mean that Mexico cannot do anything until the United States does something, and that, in the meantime, we have to continue with this fratricidal war on drugs? I don’t think so. There are things Mexico can do, although they are controversial even in Mexico. First, we need to go back to the modus vivendi that the government, society, and the cartels had over the past 50 years. There was no explicit deal or negotiation, but there was an understanding, and those tacit rules were followed by all sides. They were not ideal rules, and every now and then there were screw-ups: we would have to hand somebody over to the United States as a scapegoat, or we would have a problem with the United States that we had to fix. This could be shocking to many who might wonder how a democratic government could reach an understanding with criminals. Well, Mexico would not be the first country in which this happened.

We also have to push for drug decriminalization in Mexico and in the United States. Even though we can’t do it unilaterally in Mexico, we can’t be silent about it either. This is not just a U.S. decision, since it affects everybody — especially Mexico — and if there is one country in the world that feels the effects of what the United States does in any field or endeavor, it is Mexico.

We need to move in those directions, even though they are controversial and complicated. Last year, some 7,600 people died in drug-related episodes in Mexico — more than a thousand deaths more than in 2008. And the death rate in 2008 was, in turn, double that of the previous year. Mexico is paying an enormous price to fight a war which is going nowhere, which we are not winning, which we cannot win, and which the United States does not want to fight in its own territory, but wants others to fight elsewhere. We should find other solutions with the United States, not against the United States.

1. Rubén Aguilar V. and Jorge G. Castañeda, El Narco: La Guerra Fallida (Mexico City: Punto de Lectura, 2009), p. 68.
2. Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, “Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift,” February 2009.

Jorge Castañeda was foreign minister of Mexico during the administration of President Vicente Fox and is coauthor of El Narco: La Guerra Fallida (Punto de Lectura, 2009). This article is based in part on his lecture at the Cato Institute Benefactor Summit on March 7, 2009, on the Mayan Riviera, Mexico.

Originally published at the Cato Institute

Filed under: Analysis, Government and NGO Resources, News, opinion

Rodriguez: Keeping America safe

From the office of Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez (TX-23)

The headlines are becoming all too familiar:

“Border violence threatens Americans”

“Drug violence scares off tourists to Mexico”

“Mexico border city relives nightmare of violence”

Texas is my home. I’ve worked and raised my family here and now I represent the 23rd Congressional District in Washington, D.C. It’s a special and diverse district with unique characteristics and special challenges. With 785 miles of contiguous border with Mexico, it also lies smack on the frontlines of our nation’s security.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Government and NGO Resources, opinion

Drug War discussion at NMSU

With nearly 5,000 murders occurring since 2008 in our sister city of
Ciudad Juárez, an immediate bi-national response is necessary. In
2010 alone, 563 people have been killed and no end is in sight.
Kidnapping and extortion has skyrocketed. This forum seeks to address
this ongoing violence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Government and NGO Resources

Drug War discussion at UTEP today

Howard Campbell, author of Drug War Zone and Professor of Anthropology, Juan Sandoval, Librarian at the UTEP Library, and Moira Murphy of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and University College lead a session of lecture, debate and discussion on drug policy, drug violence and people’s lives in the border region. Go here for details.

Filed under: Government and NGO Resources

Day of Peace

April 8, 2010


Office of City Representative Susie Byrd
Contact: Diana Ramirez, Legislative Aide at 915.541.4996 or RamirezDC2@elpasotexas.gov


Date: Friday, April 9, 2010
Time: 10:00 am
Location: Upper Tom Lea Park, 900 Rim Road

EL PASO, TEXAS – On Friday, April 9, 2010, Ms. Rosa Guerrero will host a press conference to announce the Interfaith, Intercultural, Intergenerational Peace Vigil for Ciudad Juarez. The conference will be held at 10:00 am at Upper Tom Lea Park on Rim Road and will provide more information about the peace vigil scheduled at the Chamizal National Memorial in May. This peace vigil will bring together citizens from both sides of the border to comfort, to pray, to love.

City Representative Susie Byrd is supportive of Ms. Guerrero’s peace efforts and will be participating in the peace vigil events in May.

Filed under: Government and NGO Resources, News

Drug War Discussion

Tuesday, April 13, 12-1:30, Quinn Hall 212

WIN A FREE, SIGNED BOOK! Refreshments Provided!

Come join Dr. Howard Campbell, author of Drug War Zone and Professor of Anthropology, Mr. Juan Sandoval, Librarian at the UTEP Library, and Dr. Moira Murphy of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and University College, for a session of lecture, debate and discussion on drug policy, drug violence and people’s lives in the border region.

Come debate and discuss the answers to questions such as:

v How does the drug war impact lives in our region?
v Should drugs be legalized? If so, which ones? If not, why?
v Should the border be shut down to stop cross-border drug flows? Why or why not?
v What role does the United States play in the drug industry? What role does Mexico play? Are other countries involved?
v What is your role in all of this?
v How is your major field of study addressing these issues?
v What innovative solutions do you propose for our region’s challenges related to drugs?

Center for Inter-American & Border Studies and Sociology and Anthropology Department
For more information contact:
Dr. Moira Murphy mamurphy@utep.edu
Cesar Carmona acarmona@miners.utep.edu

Filed under: Government and NGO Resources, News

Drug War 40

We are concerned citizens working to understand and tell the story of the Drug War in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. We have become a hot spot: Thousands have died in recent years, and the world's attention is on us. But this is multi-generational and international, 40 years in the making. We are only one of many global war zones in which criminal organizations use violence to control markets and fight prohibitionist forces. Those war zones include North American inner city retail sales markets, Mexican transportation hubs and centers of production in the jungles of South America and the fields of Central Asia, and many other places. We primarily see things from the relatively unscathed frontline on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border, but have a global perspective and the desire for peace for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the line.

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Photos from Public Radio International's report "Mexico's War on Drugs"

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